So, the first victim of the Vampire interrogator in 2018 (by dint of the fact she got her responses back to me within 48 hours of getting the invite) is Alicia Wright, author of the Vampires Don’t Belong in Fairytales series.
Later this week, she will talk about some of her research into fairy tales – the Fairytale kisses that never happened – but first she has to endure the torture of the infamous interview questions…
1) What is the earliest memory you have of writing? What did you write about?
My earliest memory about writing is writing a story in primary school. I wrote 2 sides of A4 about myself having an adventure with my many, many imaginary friends.
2) When did you decide to become a professional writer? Why did you take this step?
I’d always wanted to be an author, ever since I was about 8 years old. I had it in my head that one day I would write a book and try to get it published. I finally sat down to do that when I was 19, and it was because I’d just quit after my first semester at university. I just wasn’t ready for university at the time. So I thought ‘What now?’ and it seemed like the right time to get on with it. I didn’t finish a manuscript until November 2007, when I was taking a forced gap year from my second time at university and I discovered NaNoWriMo.
3) What would you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer? What about your greatest weakness? How do you overcome this weakness?
I had great trouble with my manuscripts until that first full manuscript in 2007, when I tried writing comic fantasy for the first time. Until then, whenever I read back my manuscripts, they just weren’t good enough, they didn’t sparkle, there was something missing. Humour was that missing element that let me find my writing niche. Comedy has always been my thing, the majority of the things I read and watch have always been comedy-based.
My weakness is action scenes. I always seem to hurry over them and they’re too short. I cope by re-reading them and seeing what I can do to improve them, and my beta readers tend to point out to me if my action scenes are too short.
4) Tell us about the place where you live. Have you ever derived any inspiration from your home or from anywhere you have visited?
I live in Newton-le-Willows now (10 years after starting a book about a girl who moves to Newton-le-Willows…) but I grew up in Lowton. Most of my inspiration comes from my travels over the years. I’ve been to Iceland, Japan, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Greece and Poland, usually for study or volunteer work, and other countries and cultures always leave an impression on me, as do the people I’ve met there. You meet the most extraordinary people abroad, and that certainly shows in my writing, such as my quarter-Japanese Icelandic snow woman. I never actually base characters on anyone I know as that would make them awkward to write for me, but I might use a tiny piece of their background as inspiration. I also like to take photos of scenery so I can use them as inspiration for descriptions and comic backgrounds.
5) Which book, if any, would you consider to be your greatest influence and inspiration?
There is no single book, but my earliest influence was Patricia C. Wrede’s The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I picked up Dragonsbane when I was 11 and it was this book that taught me a woman could be a king. It was this book that pointed out to me how silly fairy tales are and how much fun it is to poke fun at them. A few years later, I discovered the Discworld series and from when I was 14 until there were no more Discworld novels I always got the new one for my birthday. I think anyone who reads my work can tell it has also been a big influence on my writing.
6) What drove you to write about Vampires?
I do believe, and this is going to sound weird, that I write vampire fiction because I don’t like most of it. I love vampires as a subject, but even though I am happy to read about other people’s interpretations and I always find them interesting, I’m incredibly picky about what I find satisfying. If they are just monsters or if they are too brooding or dark I find it hard to get too invested, but if they’re too silly – I know that’s rich coming from me – I find that too far the other way. Not that I object, I am always very clear that everyone is entitled to their own vision of folklore and that if we all write using the same template then stories will stagnate.
I did not intend for Miss Prince to be about vampires as such. Johann was meant to be a minor character and then he – and his entire family – went on to hijack not only that story but the entire series! Part of what took me in that direction was actually that Twilight was at the height of its popularity and much as I am not a fan, as I said above, Stephanie Meyer has and had every right to write vampires however she wanted. I saw it as a sort of parallel of the boxes we all try to put ourselves and each other in, how society wants those in a box to act a certain way, and woe betide you if you don’t. I don’t think that’s right, in fiction or real life. No-one belongs in a box.
7) What do you think is the attraction for Vampire fiction? Why is it such a popular topic?
I think it’s because they are such a human sort of monster. There are so many directions you can take that. Are they a gleeful predator, who views humans as talking sheep? Are they the reluctant monster, consumed by their sins? Bit of both? Something else entirely, a cloud cuckoolander, a grim overlord? A soulless, shuffling corpse doesn’t make for great character development, but that has its merits too.
And then there’s the blood thing. We’re pretty fascinated by blood and unlike getting your brain eaten, you can survive losing some blood. You can also link it to sex if you want to. And people do. Because if you CAN link something to sex people will. So there’s all sorts of other avenues to explore than ‘is the scary thing going to kill me’. Again, I think it’s to do with the sheer variety of directions you can go.
8) In a fight between all the greatest Vampires of fiction, who do you think would come out on top?
I have to say, it’s got to be Dracula, hasn’t it? Of all the classical literature vampires, he has the most powers and he’s the most iconic and he’s been the template for vampires since 1897.
9) What about in some other contest such as sexiness or dress sense? Who would win that one?
Best Vampire in General AND Best Alternate Form awards must go to Carmilla. She gets up at noon, drinks hot chocolate, sleeps with anti-vampire charms under her pillow and her animal form is a panther. Come on, people.
10) How well do you think one of your characters would fare against the winner(s) of the above?
Oh dear, that’s quite a complicated question. Many of my vampires and my other characters would struggle with Dracula, but anyone with strong magical skills like Contessa or Tyrian could just turn him into a squirrel or something. My ONE vampire hunter would manage if he had a decent plan and back up.
Carmilla isn’t as much of a threat, and she would inspire pity and an offer of aid rather than aggression. She’d be up to her ears in vampire medicine, psychological help and possibly even a donor or two, although she’d have to be put under house arrest for her crimes.
11) Tell us the basic premise behind your latest novel.
The latest one is Vampires Don’t Belong in Fairyland. It’s about Fairyland collapsing into civil war, which I promise is funnier than it sounds. Fairyland is split into three Realms, with three countries, all with their own set of royals, but they all consider themselves one country and family. But you know what families are like. Kids squabble over the silliest things, usually toys, only with royals the toy they’re fighting over is the entire country and the resulting tantrum and girly slap fight is replaced by everyone hiring assassins.
So out of all the Fairyland royals we have only two left standing – Queen Regent Lir and King Tyrian. Tyrian has a problem other than his cousin is trying to nick his crown and possibly kill him, and that is the fact that he’s a king. In fairytales, whenever kings try to do anything remotely adventurous they tend to die, so there’s no chance he can save the country by himself. He’s going to need help, and the traditional thing to do is to find a prince to do the adventuring for you. We might just have one knocking about…
Alicia L. Wright is a YA comic fantasy author from Lancashire in the North West of England.
She studied both art and graphic design in high school and college, where she was told to stop drawing dragons and fairies. She didn’t listen. She also went to university, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
She writes books about fairies, vampires and other nerd things, playing with tropes and drawing a webcomic – poorly.